Medical problems encountered during pregnancy

Pregnancy encounters many minor problems, sometimes annoying and rarely ever serious. It is therefore possible to reduce their intensity and in some cases completely avoid them.

Back pain

During the second trimester of pregnancy, weight gain and swelling of the womb affects the spine. Your ligaments become soft and stretchy, helping prepare you for labour. This also affects your joints including your spine.
  • Avoid standing on your feet for too long
  • Avoid high heels
  • Do not carry heavy loads
  • Bend your knees keeping your back straight when lifting up objects or picking items up off the floor.
  • Sit up straight and keep your back well supported
  • Keep active: swimming, walking and yoga

Nausea and morning sickness

  • Occurs in early pregnancy and usually continues until the third month, sometimes longer.
  • It can happen at anytime, most commonly in the morning upon waking.
  • It is aggravated by long gaps between meals, therefore eat little and often.

Tips for reducing the feeling of nausea

  • Have 3 lighter meals each day and a snack around 5pm.
  • Have a snack in the evening after your last meal to reduce the interval of fasting time until breakfast.
  • Reduce the amount of food at each meal
  • Avoid having your breakfast too late in the morning.
  • If the morning is your worse time avoid rushing about. Feeling tired can make it worse - get plenty of rest.
  • Keep busy to distract yourself from feeling sick.
  • Some women find foods and drinks containing ginger help.


  • Hemorrhoids (Piles) are dilated veins around the back passage. Small grape like balls can form inside or outside the anus causing itching, soreness and can bleed after having your bowels opened. They are very common in pregnancy.
  • They often occur after a prolonged constipation over several days a common problems especially towards the end of pregnancy.
  • During pregnancy, veins relax under the influence of pregnancy hormones, the uterus becomes larger, compresses the abdominal veins, disrupting blood flow at the origin of varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
  • Hemorrhoids do not cause any harm to your baby.


  • Avoid becoming constipated which can cause hemorrhoids
  • Avoid spicy foods
    • Avoid carbohydrates
    • Drink plenty of fluids especially water
    • Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, high fibre foods - in particular prunes are known to help.
    • Keep active, such as swimming or walking.

Medication is generally contraindicated during pregnancy, check with your pharmacist or midwife.
If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.


Tiredness is felt during the first 3 months, sometimes requiring a sleep during the day. It tends to decrease during the fourth month.

Tips to fight tiredness :
  • Rest frequently
  • Reduce your workload, especially with everyday tasks.
  • Get help around the house
  • Go to bed earlier
  • Take a nap in the afternoon
  • Do not overeat at night
  • Do not overheat your bedroom: a temperature of 19-degrees during the night is recommended.

Permanent tiredness may indicate a deficiency in vitamins or iron. In this case, see your doctor or midwife.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins mostly occur in late pregnancy .
They disappear in most cases after delivery.
  • Do not stand for too long.
  • Avoid crossing your legs when sitting.
  • Do not wear high heels.
  • Elevate your legs at night and during the day if possible.
  • Massage your legs from top to bottom.
  • Wear compression stockings - you can buy them at most pharmacies or on prescription from your doctor


Cramps tend to occur in late pregnancy. They are sudden sharp pains in the calf muscles of your legs and thighs. They appear at night. Their cause is unknown, but gentle massage helps throughout pregnancy.
If the cramps persist and are frequent and disabling see your doctor.

Sleep disorders

They vary depending on the stage of pregnancy

In early pregnancy

Tiredness is very common and persists during the first 3 months. Going to bed early in the evening, rest and taking naps help enormously.

In the Second Trimester

Sleeping is much easier during this period, and your energy levels are much better.

In the Third Trimester

Insomnia can be a problem in late pregnancy.: The baby can be more active at night time, kicking more frequently and then getting up to go to the toilet. Some women have strange dreams and nightmares about the baby and birth - this is normal, but talking about them can help.

Tips for a better nights sleep

  • Avoid coffee and tea
  • Eat lighter meals, especially at super time.
  • Do relaxation exercises before bed
  • Read rather than watch TV
  • Go to bed at regular times in a well ventilated room and not too warm.
  • It is recommended that you sleep on your left side: this position avoids compression of the vena cava (major vein taking de-oxygenated blood from the lower half of the body).

Urinary disorders

A frequent need to urinate

Compression of the bladder by the uterus, especially in late pregnancy. As the baby grows, it presses on the bladder, thus causing the need to pass urine frequently.

Urinary infections

They are common in pregnant women and must be treated as soon as possible. Signs of infection are: a burning sensation on passing urine, blood in the urine, urgency and the need to urinate frequently.

Stretch Marks

  • Pinkish lines that appear on the belly, breasts, buttocks, hips and thighs
  • They are more common and prominent in the third trimester
  • Hydration of the skin regularly helps to decrease their intensity
  • Some women get them some don't. They become pale and fade after giving birth.


  • Episodes of constipation are very common during pregnancy
  • Keeping active helps - 30 minutes per day such as swimming, walking and yoga.
  • Eat foods rich in fibre such as cereals, wholemeal bread or bran, pasta, rice, fruits and vegetables for example.
  • Drink 1.5 liters of water per day.
  • Do not use laxatives without consulting a doctor

Skin Changes in pregnancy

  • Hormonal changes can make the skin go darker all over or in patches. The nipples and skin around them become darker and skin changes on face can occur such as brown spots or freckles on the forehead and cheekbones. You may also notice a brown line develop down your stomach which should fade after delivery.
  • Sun exposure makes these skin changes worse.
  • They fade and disappear after delivery
  • Facial pigment changes can reappear when taking a contraceptive pill

Protect your face during sun exposure.


Heartburn and indigestion can be very uncomfortable during pregnancy. It is caused by hormonal changes and as the baby grows it pushes up on the mothers stomach causing acid to spill into the food pipe.
  • Avoid large meals and eat more slowly
  • Avoid going to bed immediately after dinner
  • Avoid foods which are spicy, sour, and fried.
  • Try sleeping with several pillows to prop yourself up with.
  • See your midwife or GP for antacids treatments that are safe during pregnancy.


Acne can suddenly appear during pregnancy and be distressing if you do not normally suffer with spots. Hormonal changes are responsible for it, however, most treatments are contraindicated during pregnancy.

Take care of your skin washing and cleansing daily.

Tooth decay and gingivitis

Tooth decay and infection, can occur more frequently during pregnancy

As with any infection during pregnancy they can be dangerous. Therefore brush your teeth morning and evening, with a soft brush, seek medical help if you suspect any infection

The onset of gingivitis, gum disease, causes frequent bleeding

Monitoring by your dentist is therefore recommended throughout your pregnancy.

Page written in collaboration with Claire Gabillat
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